Smuggling in wildlife is increasingly endangering the survival of several species on the planet. In this paper, we develop a socio-economic-ecological model of optimal management of wildlife preservation areas through incorporating the environmental preferences of local communities. These preferences are dynamic and influenced by local economic growth. When environmental preferences of local communities are brought in sync with those of the regulators, monitoring and regulatory policies aimed at curbing illegal smuggling become efficacious. Our results indicate that when communities residing in the vicinity of wildlife protection areas see a rapid change in their environmental preferences owing to economic development within the region, it aids in biodiversity protection by making stringent monitoring and regulatory measures acceptable. However, promoting economic development may require providing higher access to biodiversity preservation areas in the initial stages even if it comes at the cost of mild habitat degradation. When the probability of catching illegal smugglers is a function of cooperation received from the local inhabitants, it is optimal to invest in policy measures that improve local economic well-being and willingness to cooperate before increasing monitoring efforts.
- wildlife smuggling
- wildlife habitat
- illegal poaching
- endogenous environmental preferences
- forestry-dependent communities
- community development